Cokie Roberts helps kids learn about women in history

Event preview

Cokie Roberts will discuss and sign copies of her book “Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies”

7 p.m. Wednesday at Davis Academy at 8105 Roberts Drive. Reservations are required.


Don’t forget the ladies.

That’s the message that Cokie Roberts hopes to spread among youth when it comes to women and this nation’s early history.

It’s not all about George Washington.

What do you know about first lady Martha Washington, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay and Phillis Wheatley?

They were heroic. They were steadfast. They wrote. They took care of the home and they fought.

“I don’t remember ever being taught anything about the women who lived at the time the 13 American Colonies decided to break from Britain and build a country,” Roberts writes in the introduction. “I knew nothing of the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and female friends of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence, fought in the Revolution, created the Constitution and formed our first government.”

The book is a follow-up to Roberts’ adult book, “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.”

Roberts said she wrote the book in a way that will appeal to younger readers and found stories in their personal letters, journals and ledgers.

“Women were so essential to creating the social safety net in this country,” she said.

Roberts, a well-respected political journalist and author, will be in Atlanta to discuss and sign copies of her first book for youths, “Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Davis Academy at 8105 Roberts Drive. Reservations are required.

The book, for children ages 8 through 12, is illustrated by Diane Goode, who also illustrated the Caldecott Honor Book “When I Was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant.

On writing a children’s book:

What kids are not learning in school about history as a whole is a problem. Children really don’t know our history, and when it is taught, it’s not presented, in many cases, in a way in which they can relate. It’s all about dates and battles and it’s boring. History is fun. We wanted to show girls, but boys too, what women were essential to the founding of the country.

On the difference in writing for adults and writing for kids:

It’s very different. I did one page of biography and a page of vignettes. I thought that was a very good idea. Vignettes are like little stories that they can remember and they’re able to be illustrated. It’s just a completely different approach. I think being a broadcast journalist helped. Over the years I’ve had to take very complicated material and boil it down to a 1-minute spot. That helped.

On deciding which women to profile:

It was a collaborative decision between me and the publisher. I think I threw out one. I know I didn’t have Catharine Littlefield Greene in the first time around, and for Georgia audiences she was very important. (She was the wife of American Revolutionary Gen. Nathanael Greene, and after the war they became the owners of the Mulberry Grove plantation near Savannah.) I thought she was way too interesting to leave out.

She was very intrepid. She would go to camp every winter. She loved going to camp. She would bring the baby to camp and that sort up cheered everyone. She was fun, she was flirty. She and George Washington once danced for three straight hours. … Eli Whitney worked on her plantation and heard planters talk about the problem of getting seeds out of the cotton. Some people said she helped invent the cotton gin. It’s certainly true she financed his operations.

On her next project:

The next book is going to be about the Civil War. Women in the Civil War. And it might kill me.